Vigilant Guard is a National Guard Bureau exercise that is conducted in four states each year, and it will be held in and around Great Falls starting on Friday, February 2nd..
Disaster & Emergency Services State Training Officer Rick Forkel says Montana has been planning for the exercise for the past two years: "All of that gives the local agencies a lot of opportunities to practice certain things and activate emergency operations plans and validate processes."
The exercise began on Friday with a mock earthquake near Hebgen Dam, which causes dam failures leading to Great Falls.
There will be a joint information center, shelters, and evacuations to other cities in the state.
Along with local assets and Montana National Guard, personnel from Malmstrom Air Force Base will also participate in the exercise.
Vigilant Guard deputy director Lt. Col. Daniel McGee said that one of the things Great Falls residents will see is a mock chemical spill that takes place at or near the Calumet Refinery in Great Falls.
"We will respond to that with the local authorities. Then some helicopters will come in, pick up those people and move them up here and medevac out. Basically there will be some helicopter activity down there on Monday and Tuesday of Vigilant Guard. That will be the biggest thing where people will see helicopters landing in the Westgate Mall parking lot,” McGee said.
The majority of the exercise will take place in Cascade County, but hospitals in Billings, Kalispell, and Missoula will also be participating as well.
Vigilant Guard will run through March 7th.